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Halftime Analysis: Dolphins 7, Patriots 6

10.04.10 at 9:58 pm ET
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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — With two quarters in the books here at Sun Life Stadium, the Dolphins hold a 7-6 lead on the Patriots. Here are a few quick notes:

In a game that had all the earmarks of a shootout, both teams have played a tight, evenly-matched defensive contest through the first two quarters. The defensive star of the evening is linebacker Rob Ninkovich, who has intercepted Miami quarterback Chad Henne twice — one on a ball meant for Brandon Marshall, the other on a pass intended for Patrick Cobbs.

In all, it was a good first half for New England’s special teams: Zoltan Mesko delivered a pair of big punts, while Stephen Gostkowski put one kickoff in the end zone and added a pair of field goals, one from 23 and the second from 30 yards out.

Miami got on the board first — on its second drive of the evening, Henne engineered a seven-play, 64-yard drive that ended when the quarterback connected with Davone Bess on a 19-yard touchdown strike with just under six minutes to go that made it 7-0 Miami. A good, consistent drive where the Dolphins were able to move the ball with ease.

Defensively, the Patriots have been able to hold wide receiver Brandon Marshall in check — he has no catches through the first two quarters. New England has tried to remain as physical as possible with Marshall early, and the Patriots were able to come away with their first turnover of the night on a Henne pass that was meant for Marshall in the first quarter. Ninkovich stepped in front of the play and came away with the pick that gave New England the ball on its own 40-yard line.

The Patriots were able to do a nice job of cashing that in when Brady put together a 16-play drive that included several successful third-down conversions, including a run from BenJarvus Green-Ellis and a pass to rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez. It ended with a 23-yard field goal from Gostkowski to make it 7-3 with 7:13 left in the first half.

Defensively, the Patriots have flashed multiple looks — at the start of the game, nose tackle Vince Wilfork was lined up at end and Mike Wright was at nose.

New England’s biggest defensive gaffe of the night came with just under five minutes left in the first half when a 3rd and 11 pass from Miami’s that was intended for Brian Hartline sailed out of bounds, but rookie cornerback Devin McCourty was caught up along the sidelines with Hartline and rightfully flagged on the play. Later in the drive, cornerback Kyle Arrington — making his second straight start in place of Darius Butler — tripped up Ricky Williams. Henne through his second pick of the night on the next play when Ninkovich took the ball away, the most impressive defensive play of the young season.

Following the second Ninkovich pick, New England converted again when Brady and the Patriots put together a 13-play drive that took 63 yards and ended with a 30-yard field goal from Gostkowski at the gun to make it 7-6 at the half.

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Analysis of Patriots Inactives

10.04.10 at 7:16 pm ET
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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — When it comes to the Patriots inactives, there are no real surprises: running back Thomas Clayton, outside linebacker Shawn Crable, offensive lineman Nick Kaczur, defensive lineman Kyle Love, offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger, wide receiver Taylor Price, running back Fred Taylor and cornerback Terrence Wheatley.

•No Clayton or Taylor (and with running back Kevin Faulk on injured reserve) the Patriots are a little thin at running back, with Sammy Morris and BenJarvus Green-Ellis as the traditional backs while Danny Woodhead will fill the role of third-down back that has been occupied by Faulk in the past. As he did against the Bills, Green-Ellis figures to get the majority of snaps this evening for New England.

•Given the numbers and way the injury report has looked this week, Kaczur, Love, Ohrnberger, Price and Wheatley were all a safe bet to land on the inactive list. With Crable sidelined, expect the Patriots to lean on Jermaine Cunningham for depth at outside linebacker. And inside linebacker Dane Fletcher and defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick (both rookies) are active for the first time in four games, and each have a chance to make their professional debut this evening.

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Crable, Taylor among inactives tonight for Pats

10.04.10 at 7:05 pm ET
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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The following Patriots players are inactive for tonight’s game against the Dolphins: running back Thomas Clayton, outside linebacker Shawn Crable, offensive lineman Nick Kaczur, defensive lineman Kyle Love, offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger, wide receiver Taylor Price, running back Fred Taylor and cornerback Terrence  Wheatley.

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We are on the scene at Sun Life Stadium

10.04.10 at 6:46 pm ET
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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — We are on the scene here at Sun Life Stadium for tonight’s Patriots-Dolphins game. Here are a few quick notes to get you ready for tonight’s game:

•Warm and humid night here at Sun Life Stadium. Weather.com calls for it to be partly cloudy with a high of 72 degrees. In addition, winds are expected out of the north at 16 mph. No rain, which should make it a pretty good night to throw the football.

•This end of stadium — where the baseball dirt infield has been covered –looks a little rough. Several Patriots — including kicker Stephen Gostkowski — have been testing their footing throughout warmups. This is fresh sod that has been put down fairly recently. While we aren’t expected to see any rain, it will be interesting to see if it holds up throughout the evening.

•Our plan tonight is to have pregame updates — including the inactives, which should be along shortly — as well as a halftime update and notes, quotes and postgame analysis after things wrap up.

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Five Final Thoughts on Patriots-Dolphins

10.04.10 at 6:01 pm ET
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The view from Row A, Seat 30 in the press box at Sun Life Stadium. (Christopher Price Photo)

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla.  — With kickoff looming, here are five final thoughts on Patriots-Dolphins:

1. If you haven’t done so already, check out this audio clip from “NFL Sunday” with Troy Brown and Christian Fauria talking about just how hard it is to win in Miami. Hard to believe teams as mentally tough as the 2003 and 2004 Patriots were so flummoxed with dealing with the heat in Miami that they put garbage bags over the air conditioning units in the locker room to try and avoid getting too cool, and also considered not even heading into the locker room at halftime.

2. For me, this game boils down to who can stop a specific set of opposing pass-catchers. If the Dolphins are able to find a way to slow down Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski (and they haven’t been able to stop opposing tight ends since the start of the 2009 season) Miami is going to win this game. If the Patriots can slow down Brandon Marshall and Davone Bess, New England is going to win. For more on those numbers, click here.
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Ty Law: Dream of return to Patriots ‘fading’

10.04.10 at 3:49 pm ET
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According to ESPN.com, five-time Pro Bowl cornerback Ty Law, during a visit on ESPN’s Chalk Talk, said that a return to the Patriots represents “a dream I’ve had for a long time,” but the 36-year-old said that hopes for a return are “fading.”

“At the end of the day, you can’t lose there. You’re going back home, a dream I’ve had for a long time,” Law is quoted as saying. “But that’s fading. I’ve been gone for so long. I was [like] ‘OK, that’s not going to happen.’”

Law said that he believes he could help a team for 15-20 snaps a game, and that he feels he could join a club mid-season and still be an effective contributor. Even so, he said that he is not actively looking to hook up with a team, suggesting that he is at peace with the idea that his career could be over.

“That door is closing and I’m finally at peace with football,” he said. “I did everything I could possibly do in football. If I play it would be solely to win a championship and help young guys.”

Law, drafted in the first round in 1995 by the Patriots, won three Super Bowls with New England. He spent 10 years with the Pats, picking off 35 passes, second most in franchise history. Since leaving the Patriots after the 2004 season, he has gone to the Jets, Chiefs, back to the Jets and the Broncos. He played in seven games, picking off one pass, for Denver last year.

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Price’s 3 Keys: Patriots @ Dolphins

10.04.10 at 3:47 pm ET
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WEEI.com’s Chris Price gives his three keys to the game Monday night when the Patriots will take on the Dolphins in Miami. Be sure to visit the Patriots team page during the game for all the latest updates from Miami.

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